Holy Week III: Good Friday

I had hoped to put this up two days ago, but I have been happily preoccupied with our first Holy Week in which we have services Monday through Wednesday.

Preliminary Notes on Sources

In the interest of clarity, the services and ceremonies described below are not necessarily found in their entirety in any of the cataloged Lutheran sources, though a substantial portion of the texts, prayers, and hymns are. Rather than describing pre- and post-Reformation uses in separate sections, I will try to outline the service in its entirety, noting along the way where the differences are found, and hopefully adding helpful suggestions along the way for current use.

Readings and Tracts

The noon service begins with a reading from Hosea 5:15b-6:6, read without title or response (i.e.: the reading is not introduced in any way, but is simply read, with no “The Word of the Lord” or “Thanks be to God” at its conclusion.) Following this first reading is the Tract Domine audivi (Habakkuk 3:2-3), following the LXX translation of “In the midst of two beasts shalt Thou be made known,” which is sometimes understood as referring to the infant Christ child surrounded by ox and donkey at His nativity, or, in this case, to the two thieves on either side at the crucifixion.

Following the Tract is a Collect. In medieval usage, the collect was as follows:

O God, from whom Judas received the punishment of his guilt: and the thief the reward of his confession: grant unto us the full fruit of Thy clemency, that even as in His Passion our Lord Jesus Christ gave to each retribution according to his merits, so having cleared away our former error, He may bestow on us the grace of his resurrection; who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end.

The Lutherans at this point, however, seemed to prefer this collect, ubiquitous throughout the Triduum:

Almighty God, we beseech Thee graciously to behold this Thy family, for which our Lord Jesus Christ was contented to be betrayed and given up into the hands of wicked men and to suffer death upon the cross; through the same Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord; who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end.

Following the Collect is a reading from Exodus 12:1-11, again read without title or response. Following this, the Tract Eripe me (Psalm 140:1-9, 13) is sung.

After the conclusion of the Tract, the St. John Passion is read or sung, again without title or response. The medieval sources all note a genuflection and the silent praying of the Our Father after the words “He gave up His spirit,” though Ludecus 1589 at this point does not explicitly do so. However, he does break off the paragraph immediately after tradidit spiritum, leaving a small gap before continuing onward. As he already explicitly stated that the clergy and people were to kneel and pray the Our Father at this point in the singing of the St. Matthew Passion, and also included reminders in the St. Mark (Monday) and St. Luke (Wednesday) Passions, he seems to assume that the reader ought to know what happens at this point.

[Before we reach the Bidding Prayer, in accord with contemporary liturgical practice, this would be the point at which a suitable hymn would be sung, followed by a sermon, though, of course, neither of these is noted in the original sources.]

Bidding Prayer

Following the Passion in the medieval uses, the Bidding Prayer is here prescribed, read from the epistle corner of the altar, with nine petitions for the Holy Church of God, for the Pope, for all estates of the Church, for the king/emperor, for catechumens, for all the people of God, for heretics, for the Jews, and for pagans.

For each petition, a bid is sung, followed by “Let us pray,” then “Let us kneel,” then the Collect, with the indication to stand at the words “Through Jesus Christ our Lord…” The only exception to this rule is that kneeling is not prescribed for the collect for the Jews, the rationale being that they knelt in mockery, and we will not do the same.

The Lutheran usage is somewhat less definite, with Ludecus not giving a text for the prayers, but prescribing that multa collecta be said for the Church of Christ, for all estates of the Church, for Jews, for heretics, for schismatics, for pagans, and any other suitable petitions. So, quite obviously, exactly those things for which the Bidding Prayer prays.

Reproaches and Veneration of the Cross

Following the Bidding Prayer, the Reproaches are sung. In both the Lutheran and medieval sources, Popule meus is sung in Latin, then Hagios ho Theos… in Greek, then Sanctus Deus… in Latin. The pattern repeats for Quia exudite and Quid ultra.

The medieval usage at this point is for the clergy and assistants to remove their shoes and bring forward the veiled cross in three stages, moving at each of the Reproaches, with all genuflecting at each repetition of the word “Holy.” Once the cross has arrived at the place prepared for it, it is unveiled in three stages, with three sung repetitions of “Behold the wood of the cross” and the response “On which was hung the Salvation of the world.” At this time, a couple of antiphons are appointed to be sung as the priest genuflects three times before the cross, each time kissing the wounds of Christ and saying an appointed prayer. Following the priest, the other clergy and assistants approach and adore the cross. Several medieval sources are careful to note at this point that “No one who is wise adores the Cross itself, but rather Christ the Crucified; rather, he salutes the Cross.” (trans. Matthew Carver)

In both Ludecus and the medieval sources, after the Reproaches, Pange lingua…praelium (Sing, My Tongue, the Glorious Battle) is sung in ten stanzas, preceded by the stanza “Faithful cross, above all other,” which is also sung by half verse as an antiphon between the hymn stanzas. I might suggest that you refrain on Good Friday from using the rather bombastic melody appointed in LSB, and instead reserve it for occasions such as the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. The complete text and plainchant can be found in Matthew Carver’s Liber Hymnorum, and if plainchant isn’t quite feasible at this point, you might well use the melody Picardy, familiar from “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence,” with the full text of the hymn.

Lutheran Loose Ends

Following the singing of Pange lingua, Ludecus provides no other instructions whatsoever in his missal for Good Friday. Here we pick up Magdeburg 1613, which has not been mentioned up to this point, but has a few cursory notes on the Good Friday chief service. The mass for Good Friday, as laid out in Magdeburg, begins with the antiphon O admirabile praetium, sung in the medieval uses as the clergy adore the cross, followed by Pange lingua, sung as described above, proceeding into the Passion History, followed by the Apostles’ Creed and a sermon. After the sermon, the hymn “Our Blessed Savior Seven Times Spoke” (TLH 177) is sung, or else “Lamb of God, Pure and Holy.” Magdeburg 1613 then notes that the Preface and Sanctus are sung, and after that provides nothing else apart from Vespers.

Service of the Sacrament

In the medieval sources, following their adoration of the cross, the priest and assistants put their shoes on once again, the priest puts on a chasuble, the altar is dressed with fair linen, corporal, and lit candles.

At this point, your practice on Maundy Thursday dictates what you will do next:

  • Consecrate the Body and Blood of Christ with Preface and Sanctus, but without Agnus Dei or Pax Domini.
  • Bring the reserved Body and Blood to the altar with the antiphon Hoc corpus, pray the Our Father, but omit the Pax Domini and Agnus Dei.
  • Skip the Sacrament altogether and proceed with subjoined Vespers, as on Maundy Thursday and at the Vigil of Easter.


After all have received the Sacrament (or not), the celebrant returns to the vestry and dons cassock and surplice for Vespers. I might suggest a hymn at this point to bridge the gap. As in all offices during the Triduum, Vespers is said without opening versicles, and simply begins with the psalm antiphon “My enemy hath filled and made me drunk with bitterness,” followed by Psalms 138-142.* The Magnificat follows with the antiphon “When Jesus had received the vinegar, He said, It is finished, and He bowed His head, and gave up the ghost.”

Following the Magnificat, the verse “Christ became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” is said, followed by the Our Father and Psalm 51 (without antiphon or Gloria Patri). The verse is repeated, and then, without salutation or “Let us pray,” the collect: “Almighty God, we beseech Thee graciously to behold this Thy family…” Following the collect, the office has concluded. If you were to conclude with a hymn, “O Darkest Woe” would be suitable.

Deposition of the Cross

Either following Vespers, or following the distribution of the Sacrament and immediately preceding Vespers, the ceremony of the deposition of the cross occurs repeatedly in medieval sources. The crucifix that was adored is taken by the celebrant in procession, preceded by thuribles and two lights, to a sepulcher of some sort, while the responsories Sicut ovis and Ecce quomodo moritur justus are sung. The crucifix is then wrapped in a linen cloth, deposited in the sepulcher, and censed while the responsory Sepulto Domino is sung.

I hope to bring you a fourth installment on the Vigil of Easter in the next day or two. It should prove to be much simpler than either Maundy Thursday or Good Friday.

*Edit: This post originally confused Psalms 111 (Confitebor tibi Domine in toto corde meo: in consilio justorum…) and 138 (Confitebor tibi Domine in toto corde meo: quoniam audisti).

For the other posts in this series, see here:

  • Palm Sunday
  • Maundy Thursday
  • Vigil of Easter
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